The Rise & Fall of Flair Baseball

While 1993 will be remembered by many as the year Topps introduced the Refractor, there was another brand making its debut in a much more subtle and classy way. Flair was Fleer’s true entrance into the “high-end” market and while the product was a victim of multiple cases of re-tooling (fixing what was not broke), it is still one of the most beloved brands of all-time.

Flair ran up until 2006 but by then the magic was long gone and collectors had evolved into Superfractor-chasing maniacs who valued a card’s rarity way more than it’s aesthetic-appeal. This is why unopened boxes of 1993 Flair will barely crack $10 dollars but boxes of Bowman Draft with lazy photography and terrible Photoshop sell for five times the price even after the key rookie parallels have been pulled.

I have included a scan of every single Flair release from their debut in 1993 to 1999 to show collectors some of the greatest cards ever produced. I wanted a seamless photographic journey so I had to choose one player who was featured in every single release and the best one I could think of was “The Kid”, Ken Griffey Jr.

Sorry, Jeff Conine fans

Card of the Day – 1999 Topps Gold Label

Topps Gold Label was a product that made its debut one year too late for me. By 1998, I was more concerned with my ’86 Cutlass Supreme and what girl I would be taking out on a date that weekend than what products card companies were producing. Thankfully, I have Jose Canseco and to a degree, Jose Cruz Jr., as collecting bridges to sets I missed. Seeing these immaculate Topps products today makes me wonder why Topps can’t get it right today. Is it really possible that the Gold Label releases of the late-90’s is superior to more than half of the Topps 2008 releases? In my opinion, absolutely.

Even more questions arise as I flip through the few Gold Label cards I own. Was Gold Label Topps’ answer to Flair Showcase or was it just a cheap knock-off? To me, these cards look absolutely perfect in every way but I don’t remember ever seeing anything close to Gold Label until after Flair Showcase made its debut. Of course, I know you guys will correct me if I am wrong.

Finally, check out the back of the ’99 Topps Gold Label Jose Cruz Jr. card. Back in 1999, Topps had a serious “Man Crush” on Jose. It’s a shame that despite playing close to 40 games in 2008, Topps (nor Upper Deck) had the courtesy to include Jose in any 2008 product except for one insert. I guess nothing lasts forever, even Topps Man Crushes.

From Topps’ Gold Label card back:

“Cruz has the makings of a GQ boy: broad smile, high cheekbones and a perfect physique.”

You Be the Judge! – King of 1997

If ever there was one year that catered to the infamous “Joe Collector”, it was 1997. Sure, Topps Finest had already created the favored drug of the Joe Collector years earlier with the debut of the Refractor and made them much easier to come by thanks to Bowman’s Best and Topps Chrome, but 1997 was just a special year for trading cards, maybe baseball in general.

Below are ten of my favorite releases of that very special season of trading cards. In this very special ‘You Be the Judge’ I am asking you the collector to chime in with your favorite brand from 1997. Was it SPx, with it’s beautiful and sometimes creepy holographic images? How about the first-ever release of Bowman Chrome or the original Bowman “Chrome” autographs released by Bowman’s Best? Maybe like me, you are a “Pinnacle Man” who loves Certified and Totally Certified, or perhaps you keep it old school with the bad ass Topps Finest of the year. If you collect and love this hobby and were around in 1997, this is your chance to speak your mind. Is your favorite 1997 baseball release not pictured? Please, let us know!

Finally, here is a full scan of eight of the images combined which would make a decent wallpaper, if you are a big enough card collecting nerd. Unfortunately, I had to leave out two products and chose Upper Deck SPx and Bowman’s Best. You can view the Wax Heaven wallpaper by clicking HERE.

Upper Deck SPx

Pinnacle Totally Certified

E-X 2000 (Fleer)

Donruss Signature Series

Topps Finest

Flair Showcase (Fleer)

Leaf Limited (Donruss)

Bowman’s Best

Pinnacle Certified

Bowman Chrome